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José Baselga, a storied oncology researcher and pharmaceutical executive whose discoveries helped pave the way for new breast cancer therapies, died Sunday at the age of 61.

His death was confirmed by AstraZeneca, where Baselga had been serving as executive vice president for research and development in oncology. The company did not provide a cause of death; the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia reported it was Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare brain infection that causes degeneration and death.

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